No Regrets and There Is No Place Like Home

March 15, 2016  Bobo Hollow Road, Tennessee

It’s hard to tell you … but my pursuit of a thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail ended at Fontana Village (mile 164). For nearly three weeks I have been unable to get the sleep needed to continue this physically demanding hike. I hoped that my body would adjust to sleeping on the ground, in a sleeping bag, and the surrounding environment. But it has not happened and I feel it is unsafe to continue. I found that fatigue was beginning to affect me more each day.

I have been home for four nights and have slept soundly and restfully, without sleeping aids. My doctor has confirmed that there is no physical reason to prevent me from sleeping so it remains a mystery why I did not. Therefore, I am ending my hike. (btw – my stumble last Thursday produced a right ankle sprain that is healing quickly.)

It is very humbling to receive so much support from so many people. You have all been so kind and encouraging. I shared my thoughts on being out of my comfort zone while being on the trail.  But, that which was most uncomfortable was “separation “.  Separated from things that often are taken for granted in my everyday life; a moment shared with a loved one, enjoying time with friends, established routines, and the warmth of sharing a happy home with someone, I love dearly.   My beautiful wife has always supported me. She really is “the number one fan of the man from Tennessee!” Thank you, Catherine. And, while I may miss the challenge of climbing another mountain or a steep and challenging descent, I am glad to be home.👫

Off The Trail,

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Stay Tuned …

My sister-in-law, Liz, posted a link on Facebook to an article titled “Doctors Tell Us How Hiking Can Change Our Brains”.  Here is an excerpt from the article:

“Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves,” wrote John Muir in Our National Parks. Clearly, John Muir understood the intrinsic value of spending time in nature.

Along with Muir, many of us recognize that hiking in nature is good for the body, mind, and soul. Walking through the woods while observing colorful birds and foliage, smelling the aroma of spruce and pine trees, and listening to a soothing running stream simply clear our mind and make us feel good.”

Sleep deprivation robs the senses of such enjoyment.  I made the decision today to return home to see my doctor and figure out why I’m not sleeping after hiking 12 to 15 miles per day!

I’ll keep you posted, 

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Dog Day Afternoon

Fontana Village Lodge

Fontana Village Lodge

Day 20.  Really? Seems like … 

I left Brown Fork Gap this morning at 7:15 a.m. because I was up at 5 a.m. (sleep still eluding me!)  11.4 miles later I arrived at Fontana 28 AT Crossing at Fontana Dam.  At this point, I was able to call for a shuttle into Fontana Village, NC where I planned a one night’s stay.

I was hiking off and on with Cabot and Hobbs. (We were shelter mates earlier in the month.)  We hiked some together and then we met up again at Cable Gap (mm 159.2) and two other guys were there.  These guys had a dog with them. The dog wasn’t theirs but started following them on the trail.  Apparently there had been two dogs but one dropped off (smart dog!).  The dog had a collar with a phone number on it.  Cabot and Hobbs decided they would take the dog with them and when they got a phone signal call the owner and let them know they had found their dog.

They left Cable Gap before I did and I caught up with them as they were still trying to get a phone signal.  My phone battery was dead, but that is a story for another time!  :)   Later I came across the “other dog”  and that one started following me!  The tags showed the same owner as the dog with Cabot and Hobbs.


Fontana Village Lodge

When I arrived at the trailhead a woman was waiting for her dogs (actually, I think her “husband’s dogs”, but he is out-of-town!)   Cabot and Hobbs arrived shortly with the second dog.   She said I need to tag them “Don’t feed me, don’t give me water or try to find my owners and I will go home on my own!”  The dog owners live on the mountain not far from the trail.  The two dogs like to run in the woods and hikers are always constantly rounding them up, calling her saying “we found your dog”, when in fact, the dogs are never lost!  I didn’t get a picture of the dogs, but I wish I would have.

I did take a stumble today that has left my right ankle sore. I am waiting it out to see how serious it might be. Tomorrow morning will tell the story if I continue or head home to see my doctor. (Catherine, are you available tomorrow?)

Blisters continue to pop up and I am treating them by covering with moleskin as I hike. I am at Fontana Village Lodge tonight and thought you might enjoy a few pictures of tonight’s “hostel!”  I’ve met up with Pinky in the lobby and for a youngster he is hobbling around from the last mountain too!

Starting  MM 155.3 Brown Fork Gap at 7:15 a.m.
Arrived MM   164.7 Fontana Crossing  2:15 p.m.
11.4 miles to a hot meal, warm bed, and a soaking bathtub!

From The Trail,


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On The Downhill

Day 18 Shelter Mate, Turtle

Day 18 Shelter Mate, Turtle

Day 19 I left sassafras shelter at about 8 o’clock this morning and arrived at Brown Fork Gap shelter at 2:30 this afternoon.

Pilgrim at Sassafras Gap Shelter, Day 18

Pilgrim at Sassafras Gap Shelter, Day 18

Sassafras shelter is at mile marker 144 and Brown Fork Gap shelter is at mile153.3 for a total of 9.3 miles today.

Stecoah Gap, NC Day 19

Pilgrim, Stecoah Gap, NC Day 19

Stecoah Gap is at mile 150.7 and they have a hostel there. I’m proud of myself because I could have stopped but decided on another 3 miles to round out the day.

I was thinking that hiking the A.T. is like life – lots of ups and downs.  On the A.T.,  you sometimes come upon a mountain that seems almost insurmountable, but you know that soon you’ll get to the top and then you’re on the downhill.  It takes concentration to persevere through the difficult climb.

Life is like that –  you are cruising along and all of a sudden you come upon a problem that seems insurmountable. Both situations require faith to get through it, faith in God and faith in yourself. I know He allows us to be in difficult situations to strengthen us, but He doesn’t abandon us, He is always here.

I’m reminded of SlimTim’s “About” writeup.  “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”  Hebrews 12:1

After another difficult climbing day, I’m on the downhill for the moment.  I persevere to hike another day!

From The Trail,

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Hello Goodbye

Pilgrim, Catherine and MIL Alice

NOC, Bryson City, Day 18 Pilgrim, Catherine and MIL Alice

Day 18 started with a great breakfast with Catherine and my MIL.  I heard from SlimTim during the early morning and he sent me an email from his friend Monty.  Monty included encouragement for me that I really appreciate.  Monty also said, “I have found in personal challenges pride and humility can get confused.  Pride prevents humility, but humility brings about a certain sense of pride.”  I’ve spent some time pondering his words as I climbed today.  For sure I feel the humility that comes from being a speck on a massive mountain and the sheer force of nature that is totally beyond my control.

After farewells to my wife and MIL, I hiked from Nantahala Outdoor Center (mm 137.1) to Sassafras shelter (mm 144).  I met a couple of hikers at a water stop and they were definitely hiking to the tune of a different drummer! To tell you the truth, they made me a little uncomfortable.  I admit to a little paranoia with these two, but I soon got over it.

At Sassafras Gap Shelter, I met a new trail mate, Turtle, who is close to my age.  We had a really nice chat.  I had hoped to send a photo but the signal tonight isn’t strong enough. I’ll try and include it tomorrow.

I was a little depressed yesterday until I saw my lovely bride (of almost 25 years.)  My hip was aching, my feet were sore, I had a blister on my little toe, and was totally exhausted from the climbs of the day. But she had all the meds needed for the hip and blister, she showered me with loving attention and I had a good night’s rest.  l was ready for the trail this morning!  Thank you, honey bunch.

Since my pictures didn’t upload Catherine is including a couple of photos from her drive back to Tennessee today.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park by Catherine

Great Smoky Mountains National Park by Catherine

Catherine dropped a pack of food and supplies at Fontana Village Lodge for me to pick up Thursday or Friday.  I couldn’t ask for better support!

Fontana Dam, Day 18 Catherine and MIL Alice

Fontana Dam, Day 18 Catherine and MIL Alice

Starting  MM   137.3  Nantahala Outdoor Center
Ending   MM   144     Sassafras Gap Shelter
6.7 miles for the day.

From The Trail,

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Some Days Are Diamonds, Some Days Are Coal …

Cold Spring Shelter at MM 125.6

Cold Spring Shelter at MM 125.6

I spent last night at Cold Spring Shelter.  When I arrived I was just too beat to set up my tent. Turned out well. I had two shelter mates, Stealth (from Indiana)  and Super Nova (from Virginia.)  This was one of my better nights of sleep.  You will see a little bit of the table and a fire pit on the left side of the photo. All the shelters have a table.

Day 17 NC 3-7-16At Wesser Bald (mm 130.6) I met up with Pinky.  We had met previously at TOG, Muskrat Creek, and Carter Gap.  Pinky is a nice kid from Pennsylvania.

Rhododendron budding!

Rhododendron budding!

The trail is lined with rhododendron and I look forward to sending home pictures of these beauties when they bloom.

It was another difficult day hiking.  Just when I thought I was at the mountain top I realized I still had another 5 climbs to go up!  Leaving Cold Spring we were at 4,926′ elevation.  After several ups and downs, we descended to 1,732′ at Nantahala Outdoor Center, Bryson City, NC.

Day 17 Bryson City mm 137.3

Day 17 Bryson City mm 137.3

A sight for sore eyes was my lovely wife as I descended the trail.  She brought me a new sleeping quilt/bag and food supplies.  After a good review of the quilt, I’ve decided to stay with my mummy bag for the time being. (Sorry Catherine)  I’m not convinced the quilt will be warm enough through the Smokey Mountains.

Dinner was at Rivers End restaurant.  Even though, off the trail I’ve eaten meals like this one, my wife says I look like I’ve lost 10 lbs.   At the trail restaurants, fresh veggie plates seem hard to come by!  (Although I did get some okra at Willies – fried, of course)   At the restaurant, we met Pinky  and it was nice to be able to introduce him to my wife and MIL, Alice.  We also gave him a ride to the local C-store to get some supplies.

MIL Alice on the A.T.

MIL Alice on the A.T.

An A.T. truism, what goes down must go back up. Tomorrow I will hike to a height of 4,391′ before I can call it a day.  This ascent is over a 6.6 mile climb.  Day after that it will still take another 1.2 miles to reach Cheoah Bald at 5,062′ elevation.

Starting  MM   125.6  Cold Spring
Ending   MM   137.3   Nantahala Outdoor Center
11.7 miles for the day.

From The Trail,

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Views Like I’m On Top Of The World

Beginning Day 16 Hike

Beginning Day 16 Hike

I began day 16 on the trail coming across the rushing waters of this beautiful rustic waterfall.  I had a later start than usual, with an interesting ride from Beverly.  When she picked me up she said she was on her way to church after dropping me on the trail.  She asked if I minded if she stopped and got a burrito for breakfast.  Of course, I didn’t, but I imagined this had disaster written all over it as it seemed she was going to eat and drive on the mountain roads at the same time.  I offered to drive and she thankfully said “yes”!

Top Of The World

Views From The Mountain Top

I had two really long, hard climbs today.  I left from Winding Stair Gap at 3690’ elevation. I hiked up to 5,001’ at Siler Bald summit. The downhill took me to an elevation of 4180’ before the climb started again up to 5,290’.

Wayah Bald Stone Tower

Wayah Bald Stone Tower

Another mile down the trail I came across Wayah Bald stone fire tower and footpath at 5,342’ elevation! Wikipedia has this to say about Wayah Bald and the stone tower:

Wayah Bald is a high-altitude treeless open area in Nantahala National Forest, near Franklin, North Carolina. The Wayah Bald Observation Tower is located at the area’s highest point (5,385 feet); the stone observation tower was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1937 for fire detection.[1] The Appalachian Trail andBartram Trail cross at Wayah Bald.

I wasn’t finished yet. My goal was to get to Cold Spring Shelter at mm 125.6 which meant another 5 miles up and down with an ending elevation of 4,926’.  I arrived late in the day and the sun was setting so I was a bit rushed to set up my tent, get water, cook some supper and head for my sleeping bag.

Day 16

This is short because I am out of energy for the day. Sweet dreams.

Starting  MM   109.8  Winding Stair Gap
Ending   MM   125.6    Cold Spring
15.8 miles for the day.

From The Trail,

P.S.  Happy 20th Birthday to my sweet and lovely granddaughter, Rachel!


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Resting Up, But Ready To Roll!

Trekking Poles With A Cross

Trekking Poles With A Cross

It’s day fifteen and another rest day, my third since hitting the trail.  The siren’s lure of a hot shower, a comfortable bed, and food that does not need rehydration has drawn me from the trail once again.  My plan was a motel stay every two weeks or so.  At my present rate of nights in motels, I will have to mortgage the house (sorry Catherine).

I have now hiked 109.8 miles on the A.T. with the hiking poles pictured above.  I hiked a little around Tennessee hills when I first bought them.  But today, I noticed the cross on the poles for the first time.  I sent the picture to Catherine, knowing she would appreciate and find comfort in the symbolism.  In this short time on the trail hiking alone, I have discovered once again, I am never alone.

Pilgrim's new Back Country Quilt Bag delivered to him soon!

Pilgrim’s new Back Country Quilt Bag delivered to him soon!

I ordered a new sleeping bag and I am praying this one helps me get more sleep on the trail.  The write-up and reviews say it is for the “restless sleeper who tosses and turns.” Sounds about right.  Catherine will deliver it to me this week!

Because I have this extra time I will share a few random thoughts from the trail. I knew before I started this hike that I would be stepping out of my comfort zone. It wasn’t until I started that I realize just how much.  Once again, the A.T. looks a lot different from my easy chair in the living room!

First, it has been years since I have camped out but l felt comfortable doing it again even at age seventy-one.  However, I never camped in winter weather much less during storms.  I’ve been caught twice in snow storms when I couldn’t get off the trail.  The first one SlimTim and I weathered in our tents, and the second I spent in a shelter.  Standing outside in 23-degree temperatures to do anything is a challenge and I guarantee I’ve been out of my comfort zone. I also used an “outhouse” when I was younger, but at seventy-one, this is definitely out of my comfort zone. (And I won’t even discuss using the woods.)

Then there’s the bunking with twenty other people men and women. That takes me way out of my comfort zone too! I may have tried to avoid showers when I was a kid but these days I like a daily shower, and when I don’t shower every day I feel very uncomfortable.

Naturally I’m out of my c z, however, that isn’t all bad – maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks.  More lessons coming from a mountain just down the trail …

Starting  MM   109.8
Ending   MM   109.8
Zero miles today but I am rested and ready to roll tomorrow!

Happy Trails,

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Day 14 March 3

Carter Gap to Winding Stair Gap, North Carolina

The cold and the snow started last night off in a proper dismal setting.  I didn’t sleep very well in the shelter and I didn’t want to get out of a toasty sleeping bag this morning.  My mood was dour and not positive in the least.

As I stepped out and around the shelter I stood gazing at the most beautiful mountains and the clear blue mountain sky and I was awestruck. The first thing that came to my mind was “This is the day that the Lord has made and I will rejoice and be glad in it.” All of a sudden I felt energized and ready to hike!

Stunning Day 14 Carter to Franklin
I started out hiking with one of my shelter mates and shortly after we started he dropped back but I kept going. The reason I wanted to get an early start was so that I could hike 16 miles and get to Franklin, North Carolina for a little R&R.  I needed to wash — myself and my clothes.  When we left the shelter it was still cold out and the snow on the ground was 2 to 3 inches deep.  It was soft but not sloppy.  As I hiked through the day it became very muddy and messy going, especially in the areas exposed to sunlight.

Trail on Albert Mountain

Trail on Albert Mountain

I had a difficult time going up Albert Mountain.  It is straight up with no switch backs and mostly snow-covered rock. I couldn’t manage more than this picture hanging on to my trekking poles, the phone/camera and my balance!  There was a moment when I truly wondered if I was going to make it without technical climbing equipment.  At one point I was hiking on a 12″ wide path of snowy, wet rock and a 70′ sheer drop on the right. (Don’t tell my wife, she will haul me home!)

March 4 Carter Gap to Franklin
Speaking of my wife, I sent her a text message mid-afternoon asking her to help me get a ride into Franklin.  She contacted Beverly Carini, a hiker-friendly soul who shuttles hikers to and from the trail into town and back.  Franklin, NC sits about 10 miles from the A.T.   Beverly stopped what she was doing at home and drove to Winding Stair Gap and Hwy 64. I had just arrived. (Thankyou Beverly!)  She shuttled me to my hotel to drop off my gear and then on to Willies Barbecue where I ate myself silly!  Brisket, fries and cobbler with ice cream!  No need to worry about calories out on the AT and I highly recommend Willies if you find yourself in Franklin, North Carolina.

Starting  MM     93.9    Carter Cap Shelter at  8 a.m.
Arrived   MM   109.8   Winding Stair Gap at 4 p.m.
15.7 mountainous miles in 8 hours.   I’m resting tomorrow.

From The Trail,

P.S.  SlimTim, I got my first boo-boo today.  I’d show you but then I would have to explain it to Catherine!

Psalm 118:24
This is the day that the Lord has made;

let us rejoice and be glad in it.

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Snowing n’ Going!

Carter Gap Shelter

Carter Gap Shelter  March 3, 2016

I slept pretty well last night. Thanks for the prayers!  I left Muskrat Shelter at 8:00 this morning arriving at Carter Gap at 2:00 p.m. It started snowing at 1:00. (Just like my wife told me it would last night. Just sayin…)

By 2 o’clock we have 3″ on the ground and it’s supposed to rain later tonight. Should be nice and sloppy for tomorrow’s hike!

Yeah! Passed the first state border!

Yeah! Passed the first state border!

This border picture is from yesterday.  I didn’t have enough cell service to send it yesterday.

Crystal Trees

Crystal Trees

Yesterday I saw the most fantastic ice crystals and snow on the far off mountains and then up close on the trees and brush I was hiking through.

icy mountainsLook at that blue sky!

Most of the hikers that were at Muskrat Shelter last night are here at Carter Gap Shelter tonight — Cabot, Hobbs, Root Beer, and Pinky. We are having a blast!  We had a little trouble finding the water source upon arrival because of the snow, but together we found it!

My lunch/dinner consisted of Top Ramen noodles with tuna fish added in.  When you are hungry this is delicious!  SlimTim and I vowed not to spend another night in a shelter, but that was before this winter storm blew in.  Hopefully, the local inhabitants are hunkered down and won’t spend time scurrying around tonight.

Starting  MM 81.4     Muskrat Creek Shelter  at 8:00 a.m.
Arrived MM  93.9      Carter Gap Shelter at 2:00 p.m.
This was a 12 1/2 mile day and although cold, it felt great!

Franklin, North Carolina is 16 miles up and down the trail.  Right now it stands for “a hot shower, hot food, dry clothes and a good bed.”  I would really like to make it there tomorrow.  Hmmm…. 

From The Trail,

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